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Some deeper questions

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  • Some deeper questions

    Hello
    I have been reflecting on some of my understandings of life and Dhamma. It's a great fortune to be able to ask questions of the monastics.

    So I decided it would be worth asking some of the more lingering and prominent questions that have come up lately or for many years. Hopefully these are not too lengthy and time consuming to answer. Any answers or references(especially to dhamma talks or sutta classes) are greatly appreciated.

    What is dreaming? Did the Buddha ever mention anything noteworthy or important about dreaming? Is there any purpose or purposes to dreaming? Does a conscious awareness of dream states relate in any way to meditation?

    How do we overcome the defilements? How do we know when there are still defilements in the mind?

    Does a being have any control over what happens to them in life?
    Does a being have control over how they react?
    If so, Where does that ability to affect one's reaction come from?

    What is it that makes enlightenment possible for beings?
    How can we know that we are heading away from suffering and harmful tendancies and more in the direction of enlightenment?

    What is enlightenment?

    What is it that allows a being to choose between something wholesome, unwholesome, or otherwise?
    What keeps a being "on the 'right' path"?

    What is the "best" kind of kamma one can make? (i.e. is it Metta? Is it developing wholesome qualities? Is it following the noble eightfold path?)

    How do we know when our intention is good and as "pure" as it can be? (especially given our current state of mind)

    Is there a way to better understand the khandhas and to be more aware of them?


    Thank you for reading and considering these things. May Peace be with you.

  • #2
    Dear Andria,

    Wow! A appreciate your inquiries but to answer this fully will almost require a course in Buddhism! I apologize, but I will have to keep it quite brief.

    What is dreaming? Did the Buddha ever mention anything noteworthy or important about dreaming? Is there any purpose or purposes to dreaming? Does a conscious awareness of dream states relate in any way to meditation?
    There is very little in the suttas about dreaming. One exception is the Buddha's own prophetic dreams (AN5:196). One sign of a well-developed mind (particularly if it is developed in mettā) is that one sleeps well and wakes up well-rested (AN11:16).

    How do we overcome the defilements?
    This is what Buddhist practice really is all about. You overcome them by seeing that they lead to suffering and that they are generally far worse than useless. You also overcome them by developing the opposite in your meditation. Put most of your emphasis on overcoming ill will, since this is the most destructive of emotions. I would suggest reading MN19. A study of this sutta is available here.

    How do we know when there are still defilements in the mind?
    You know you are free of defilements when your meditation is easy: you get lots of joy and stillness without effort. Until this happens, you know there are still defilments lurking in your mind. Keep watching your mind to understand the whole range and depth of defilemnets. This is an important aspect of cittānupassanā ("contemplation of mind") in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

    Does a being have any control over what happens to them in life?
    Generally speaking no. But as you grow in wisdom you get better at reducing the chances of getting into unpleasant or difficult situations. Also, you react more wisely to difficulties. By reacting more wisely, most of the problem tends to disappear. There is also the beautiful simile of the lump of salt (AN3:100). In essence this simile says that the more good kamma you make the less painful will be the results of any bad kamma that may ripen for you.

    Does a being have control over how they react?
    Yes, but it often takes time to learn how to react differently. Our habits are often very deep-seated. A large part of spiritual practice is learning how to react more skillfully.

    If so, Where does that ability to affect one's reaction come from?
    It comes from wisdom: not will-power but wisdom-power, as Ajahn Brahm likes to say. Wisdom grows with your practice, slowly but surely.

    What is it that makes enlightenment possible for beings?
    The temporary removal of the hindrances. The hindrances support ignorance/delusion (AN10:61; the "hindrances" are here called "obstructions"). As long as the hindrances are present, awakening cannot happen. That is why the Buddhist path is the path of purification: you purify yourself (of the hindrances) until you see things as they actually are. The sign of a mind free from hindrances is that samādhi (deep meditation) comes without effort. Based on that samādhi, you see things as they actually are: "For one who is concentrated no volition need be exerted: 'Let me know and see things as they really are.' It is natural that one who is concentrated knows and sees things as they really are." (AN10:2)

    How can we know that we are heading away from suffering and harmful tendancies and more in the direction of enlightenment?
    This is a very important question! Watch your mind. Are you growing in wholesome qualities and declining in unwholesome ones? If you are, you are moving towards awakening. If the opposite is the case, you are moving away from awakening. And you need a long-term perspective: months or even years. (In the short term the mind can be quite volatile.) Wholesome qualities include mindfulness and stillness, but also kindness, compassion, peacefulness, etc. Unwholesome qualities can perhaps best be summarized in the five hindrances.

    What is enlightenment?
    The end of suffering; the end of defilements; the end of the sense of "I"; the end of rebirth. You know you are awakened (or enlightened) when you have seen for yourself that rebirth has come to an end.

    What is it that allows a being to choose between something wholesome, unwholesome, or otherwise? What keeps a being "on the 'right' path"?
    Wise attention, yoniso manasikāra.

    What is the "best" kind of kamma one can make? (i.e. is it Metta? Is it developing wholesome qualities? Is it following the noble eightfold path?)
    Please have look at he Velāma Sutta, AN9:20(scroll down to the last sutta).

    How do we know when our intention is good and as "pure" as it can be? (especially given our current state of mind)
    You do your best, without being a perfectionist. Try to avoid acting on defilements. As you practice matures, you will gain greater clarity about what the defilements are, in all their manifestations. Don't raise the bar too high, or you will just create disappointment and suffering for yourself.

    Is there a way to better understand the khandhas and to be more aware of them?
    The khandhas are the salient aspects of one's personality. The purpose of this category is to provide the field for insight. It is seeing the khandhas in terms of impermanence, suffering and non-self that leads to awakening. But you don't need to be too concerned with this sort of insight meditation until after you have attained samādhi. In the meantime, it is the purification of the mind that is important.

    Phew!

    With metta.

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    • #3
      Dear Andria and Venerable Ajahn Brahmali,

      Aloha! Ms. Andria, thank you for posting such good questions As a new practicing Buddhist, the questions relates to what I have been contemplating lately.

      Ajahn Brahmali, thank you for always giving great guidance

      Sadhu to you both! Metta and Anjali.

      with great respect,
      Russell

      (I have been encountering computer issues lately, if this is a second post, kindly disregard. My apologies)

      Comment


      • #4
        Dear Ajahn Brahmali,
        Sadhu! Thank you so much for the skillful answers and references. This is of great help! I will be looking into those suttas and reflecting upon these truths.

        Dear Russel,
        Thank you for sharing this. I'm so glad this is helpful for you as well. Wishing you all the best on your spiritual journey.

        with respect and metta,
        ~Andria

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